Thursday’s “historic female spy” news

Doctor Who

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US TV

  • SK

    This is so annoying — I want to defend the two-parters, as I think that it’s only by embracing them, and indeed three-parters, properly that Doctor Who can overcome the problem that’s been crippling it aesthetically since 2005: the utter shallowness of the stories you can tell in a forty-five minute running time when you have to establish the setting anew every story.
    It’s what made Davies stop trying to tell stories with a middle and just cut straight from the set-up to the end; it’s what has left Moffat doing episodes that are all middle, interspersed with superficial fluff (even the good ones are superficial fluff: the best, like The God Complex are those which realise that and embrace it by cutting themselves down to basically what you could do in a 5,000-word short story, but >Doctor Who should be doing novels, dammit).
    But it’s really hard to make that case when the ones we have seen have mostly been rubbish. Partl that’s because they’ve misunderstood what they should be, and I think that’s pat of the lack of money savings: because rarely has new Doctor Who actually done a two-parter (I can think of maybe three?), as opposed to two one-parters with a bridge between them (think about all the two-part stori – in how many of them does the second episode take place in an entirely different location, with usually an entirely different story? Most).
    But the most depressing thing seems to be tat Moffat has decided to abandon the quest to be good entirely in favour of being popular. So ‘slutty titles’, stunt casting, and big melodramatic revelations are going to be the order of the day. Deep, slow-building stories don’t sell, so they’re out, not that they ever really got a look-in since the programme came back.
    Sigh.

  • Mark Carroll

    If your characterization of the situation is correct (I don’t doubt it, so much as note that you’ve thought about it and remembered things rather better than I, so I’m trusting you a bit here), then I share your dismay. I’ve generally not liked the pace of the resurrected series and had my doubts about the direction of and focus on big melodramatic revelations. I’d have thought that multi-parters could be a usefully cheaper option if they allow more set reuse and slower pacing. Certainly there’s been little opportunity to share wonder and puzzlement and appreciation over the course of a story (as opposed to a season arc) because it’s all been too arresting to allow much reflection before it’s all wrapped up anyway. I don’t think there’s been much in recent years that had me coming back and thinking much about it afterward, the way that, say, a Greg Egan short story might, which does lend support to your shallowness point. The frantic dazzle might work for the youth of today (I’m reminded of Greg the Bunny’s SK-2.0), considering that I tended to like, say, some of the Peter Davison four-parters, though I did think that some more recent single-parters like “The Girl Who Waited” a step in the right direction (though not unflawed) in at times being more thoughtful so I’m not unhopeful. Some rather engaging stories could come from low set and effects budgets but good scripts, but, while I might have thought that writers are cheap, and we’re past the days of having Terrance Dicks’ neighbour knock something off, a good script conveying a memorable story does still seem to be a fairly rare gem in the industry.
    I’m not sure the above is all correct and coherent, I’m just rambling but may stimulate more discussion. (-:

  • SK

    I had some issues with The Girl Who Waited, but it was definitely one of the better ones and, I thought, very similar to The God Complex in that it took a single idea, jumped straight into it, and just did that one idea — rather like a sci-fi short story, in fact.
    So there clearly is an ability to do that kind of thoughtfulness within the single-episode format: it doesn’t just have to be the flash-bang of Davies.
    However, that kind of thoughtfulness is still not the same as the kind of depth you get from a slowly-building story. Note the beginning of The Girl Who Waited: the characters land in an obviously-contrived location and act out of character to set up a specific sci-fi idea. Same in The God Complex (though there the contrivedness was part of the plot).
    But we’re lacking the ability to have the cast arrive in a location, get to know people, and slowly work out what is going on — and for the plot to actually build, so that what is going on turns out to be worse than they thought, etc etc.
    We are losing, basically, the ability ever to do bits like the game-changing cliffhanger of The Curse of Fenric part three: because in forty-five minutes you have time to set up a game and play it, not to keep hitting multiple moments than change the nature of the game.
    The aim seem to be to replicate those by using the series over-story, but that just ends up messy when the game-changing moments are stuffed into undeveloped stories that exist only so the game-changing moments have episodes to happen in, but that are total unrelated to the moments rather than the two growing organically out of each other (Let’s Kill Hitler being the worst example, as there is no reason at all for that to happen in Nazi Germany: they could just as well have used the Temple of Peace as itself, for all the difference it made to the actual story as opposed to allowing a ‘slutty title’ (and a very misleading one, given how little part Hitler, or killing him, had to do with the actual plot: but then, maybe that’s just waking up the morning after and realising that you’ve been conned…)

  • bob

    I think not having two-parters basically means not falling into the trap of thinking “let’s use the same sets each week”. This leads to creativity in moving locations and not more shallow plots. Most of the last series was a multiparter and the end of series 3 was a multiparter. That is my preferred way of storytelling.

  • SK

    Using the same sets each week is good, as time can be spent on character & plot rather than introducing a new location.
    Last series was crippled by the ‘multipart’ storytelling for the reason I have already explained: it caused lots of episodes which were all middle.